How to Nail Your IB Economics Paper 3

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As exam time is creeping up many students are looking for ways to nail your IB Economics Paper 3.

The final stage of external assessment presents a new challenge – besides extensive calculations, it also requires a proposal of policy to tackle an economic issue.

Paper 3 is also critical for HL students since it makes up almost a third of the final score. In this post, we will highlight the purpose of Paper 3, the best approach for your answers, as well as tips to maximize your marks.

The Structure of IB Economics Paper 3

IB Economics Paper 3 is just for HL students. The paper is also known as a quantitative, statistics, or Maths paper because it is based on calculations. That being said, the changes introduced in the 2022 syllabus slightly shifted the focus from quantitative to qualitative questions.

Now, students also have an extended response question, which asks them to suggest a policy to mitigate or improve a situation described in the stimulus. Hence, many refer to Paper 3 as the Policy Paper.

IB Economics Paper 3 features two compulsory questions concerning any of the four units of the syllabus. The questions come with graphs, news article excerpts, and data sets for the following calculations. There are a) and b) sections per each question:

  1. Short answer questions, with eight separate questions per section. Section a) brings 20 x 2 = 40 marks in total;
  2. Extended answer questions (policy questions). Section b) brings 10 x 2 = 20 marks in total.

Cumulatively, Paper 3 awards 60 marks, which is equivalent to 30% of the Higher Level IB Economics final grade. The duration of the assessment is 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Overall, the purpose of Paper 3 is to assess:

  • Knowledge and understanding of economic theories and concepts;
  • Application of these theories and concepts to given situations;
  • The ability to evaluate economic situations and propose relevant actions;
  • The application of skills required to conduct economic analyses and evaluations (such as drawing, calculation, etc.).
IB Economic student in exam hall
Tips for the (a) Section of Paper 3

Section a) of Paper 3 requires short answers based on various types of calculations. Usually, there are 8 questions per each a) section. Command terms they feature should give you an idea of what you need to do with given data:

  • Calculate – provide a numerical answer. You need to show a full work out here (For instance: Calculate the equilibrium price and equilibrium quantity from linear demand and supply functions…);
  • Construct – draw a diagram (For instance: Construct a weighted price index, using a set of data provided…);
  • Derive – provide a new equation or mathematical relationship based on the given formulas/relationships (For instance: Derive the equilibrium bond interest rate in terms of output and reserves …);
  • Determine – find a single possible solution (For instance: Using the data provided, determine the company’s marginal cost at a production level of…);
  • Identity – find the right answer from several possibilities (For instance: Identify the equilibrium exchange rate based on the demand and supply curves for a currency);
  • Label – introduce labels to a diagram (For instance: Label the demand and supply curves…);
  • Plot – mark points on a diagram (For instance: Plot a supply curve from a linear function…)
  • Show – provide all the steps of a calculation or derivation (For instance: Using the data provided, calculate the income elasticity of demand for the Product… Show all calculations.);
  • Solve – give an answer using mathematical or graphical methods (For instance: Solve a system of linear equations to find the equilibrium in a market…).

If you’re as good at Maths as at economic theory, you shouldn’t find it hard to nail this part of IB Economics Paper 3.

Nevertheless, there are a few rules that will help you maximize your score:
  • Two decimal places. Unless asked otherwise, make sure that your answer shows two decimal places. Even if your calculations show 2.5, write it down as 2.50. Otherwise, you will be penalized for not following the instructions.
  • Units of measurement. All of your calculations, equations, diagrams, etc. must have appropriate units of measurement ($, kg, years, %, etc.). If your question specifies units in, let’s say, thousands, your answer must also feature thousands.
  • Label diagrams. All the axes, lines, curves, intersections, and important points should be fully labeled. Do not use abbreviations unless they are standardized or a question features such abbreviations.
  • Specify your formulas. Even if a question doesn’t explicitly ask you to write down appropriate formulas, it’s worth doing so to minimize errors in calculations.
  • Use examples. For questions that read “Using an example, explain…” you must provide a relevant example.
  • Use references to the stimulus. If a question says “Using information from text…” or something similar, you need to refer to the appropriate data from this text. For example: “As mentioned in the first paragraph, an increase in price by ..% has led to a …% cut in demand…”
Minimize Mark Loss in (a) Section of Paper 3

Occurring errors are punished only once per question. So, if you failed to show two decimal points all over Section a) of Question 1, whereas everything is fine in Question 2, only one point will be deducted. At the same time, various types of errors are treated individually. For example, the incapability to specify correct units, show two decimal points, wrong labelling, and rounding errors will deduct 4 points from a relevant answer.

Some questions will require you to work with the data you obtained in the previous calculations. Needless to say, these calculations should be done very carefully so that you don’t carry an error throughout your assessment. That being said, Economics High Level Markscheme allows using the OFR (Own Figure Rule), which deducts marks for an erroneous calculation but awards full points for the following correct calculations even though they are based on incorrect figures.

In order to minimize potential losses in this way, you need to show full working out. This will allow an examiner to see at which point you made a mistake in your calculations. However, if you don’t clearly demonstrate working outs, an examiner will not spend their time scrutinizing your work. This means that they won’t apply the OFR and each incorrect figure will be perceived as an error.

Tips for the (b) Section of Paper 3

Section b) resembles an essay. The questions from these sections feature stimulus materials. Using this stimulus, you need to come up with an appropriate policy. In other words, Paper 3 asks you to suggest a set of actions in response to a given situation or issue.

To nail your IB Economics Paper 3, we recommend sticking to the following structure of the answer:

  • Definition of economic terms and keywords appropriate to the question;
  • Analyses of a given situation. This may include drawing a diagram or making calculations using the data in the stimulus. You should also refer to appropriate economic concepts concerning the matter.
  • Introduction of your policy and what it is supposed to achieve.
  • This part should mention the pros and cons of the suggested policy, its limitations, short and long-run effects, how it affects different parties, etc.
  • Conclusion – a short summary of your answer.

Don’t spend too much time on sections b) of your paper. Ideally, they should be completed in under 20 minutes each. Ensure to be precise, brief, and clear. Don’t introduce more than 1 policy.

In order to obtain 10 marks for each section b), your answer should meet the following criteria:

  • You recommended a policy relevant to the given circumstances and explained why you think this policy fits.
  • Your policy is based on a relevant economic theory or concept.
  • Your answer features appropriate economic terms and their definitions.
  • You used data from the stimulus to conduct analyses and justify your choice. When appropriate, you used quotes from the text.
  • You presented the limitations of your policy.
How to Nail Your IB Economics Paper 3 with TutorsPlus

IB Economics Paper 3 considers theoretical knowledge, practical skills, and analytical abilities alike. Such diversity requires extensive revision and calculations. One of the most efficient ways to get ready for your exam is to practice with past papers. Unfortunately, the structure and content of the external assessment have recently been changed, and there are simply no appropriate past papers, especially in terms of policy-writing assignments.

Luckily, you have another way to boost your knowledge and skills. Hiring an IB Economics tutor has a number of benefits – an individual approach to your needs, considerable insight into external assessment and its requirements, fresh perspective, just to name a few. But most importantly, a tutor is able to offer materials, assignments, and exercises to polish your economics skills.

Considering getting a tutor? Give TutorsPlus a try. We boast some of the most experienced and friendly tutors around. You can learn more about us and what we offer at and 022 731 8148. Tutors Plus is the key to nailing your IB Economics Paper 3.

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